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Meeting your dog's needs: SLEEP



Sleep plays a vital role in your dogs physical and emotional well-being. The quality of sleep they get, as well as amount of sleep can also impact significantly on their learning. 


Dogs are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn and sleep most throughout the day and night. This is why so many dogs will have early morning or late evening 'zoomies' or as some folks call it, their dogs 'witching hour'.

 


If you find that your dog is seemingly 'wild' at specific times of day that tie in with this natural sleep pattern, then you can utilise enrichment or time your training around this where possible; e.g. if they get bedtime zoomies, then add in some scent games for them to help them calm back down. More on this later!

An average adult dog will sleep for around 12-14 hours in a 24 hour period. Puppies, large breeds or elderly dogs may sleep more. Working dogs, may sleep less. 


Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep can cause your dog to...

 

- Become over tired and frantic


- Unable to learn as effectively


- More irritable or nervous


- Fine motor skills and propreoception can become less efficient 


- Increases in aggressive behaviours


- Weakened immune system and related illness

 

Additionally in puppies and young teens, sleep allows for healthy growth and development to take place.

 

Sometimes we think our dogs are really settled, but as an example, even when i'm home all day and my youngest is seeming to be sleeping, he could be 'sleeping with one eye open' as he waits for the next thing to happen and follows me around the house. While this may go unnoticed in some dogs, even something as little as this can lead to less than ideal quality of sleep and impact the more sensitive dogs. So what can we do to help out dogs get better quality sleep?

 

- Create a safe space (e.g. offering quiet, comfortable areas around the home where they can go off to sleep and remain undisturbed.

- Use window film to reduce outside visual disturbances.

- Play low level soundtracks to cut out outdoor audio disturbances (piano music, or white noise)

- Provide a variety of sleeping areas (multiple bed types, blankets, chairs etc)

- Teach a 'place' or 'settle' cue to let your dog know when it's time to switch off.

- Give your dog relaxation time by moving them to a specific room for rest (or crate/pen/tether as needed for your set up). This can give them a period of 'active rest' time, which can be essential for young dogs who are still learning to regulate their emotions and energy levels. 

- Follow relaxation protocols such as Dr Karen Overall's protocol or Suzanne Clothier's protocol.



There are different stages to the dogs sleep cycle, and unlike humans who may sleep for a soild 8 hours, dogs tend to wake up between sleep cycles more frequently e.g. 16 minutes sleeping, followed by 5 minutes awake. Overnight this could lead to as many as 23 sleep-wake cycles. These wake cycles are where your dog may move to another bed or change their sleeping position. (Information extracted from Teach yourself Dog - Heather Simpson).

 

Sleep can be broken into 5 different phases:

 

Stage 1

 

 This is where your dog may appear 'dosey' and is between being awake and asleep.

 

Stage 2

 

This stage is where the brain's activity ensures that the dog remains asleep after drifting off. This stage can be broken in older, senile dogs which is why they may wake up more throughout the night as they age.

 

Stage 3 

 

At stage 3 the dog is fully asleep, their body stops moving as they settle into their rest. At this point you may hear a change in their breathing rate or even snoring.

 


Stage 4 

 

This is where deep sleep takes place

 

REM 

Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) is where the muscles completely relax and the eyeballs move rapidly back and forth under the eyelid. This is the stage associated with dreaming


During stage 1 - 4 the brain is resting, but the body remains active and alert.


During REM the body rests, and systems such as the metabolism slows down significantly while the brain is awake.


These different cycles give different parts of the brain / body chance to restore, rest and recover.


It is thought that REM sleep is where the dog can process their experiences, and consolidate their learning.

 


 

There is a lot of potential for our dogs to be easily disturbed during these cycles, regardless if they are trying to get rest in the day, or overnight. This is why monitoring your dogs sleep pattern is vital. Especially if you are trying to work through a behaviour modification process.

 

 

If you have a new dog, or have had a change of circumstances at home, you could try products to aid relaxation such as Pet Remedy. Provide a natural chew, or licki mat or tray for your dog to help them begin to settle pre-sleep. If your dog is happy with being handled, you can add in some basic massage to your relaxation routine too. 

There are so many things we can do to help improve our dogs sleep hygiene. And it's something I feel often gets overlooked a bit. 


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If you would like help with your dogs training or behaviour you can contact me at:

 

 

 

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References

Boitani, L., Francisci, F., Ciucci, P., Andreoli, G. and Serpell, J., 2017. The ecology and behavior of feral dogs: a case study from central Italy. The domestic dog: its evolution, behavior and interactions with people, pp.342-368.

 

 

 Schork, I.G., Manzo, I.A., De Oliveira, M.R.B., Costa, F.V., Palme, R., Young, R.J. and De Azevedo, C.S., 2022. How environmental conditions affect sleep? An investigation in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 199, p.104662.

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